U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

September 2011 Archives

Judiciary Committee Schedules Nomination Hearing for Stephanie Thacker

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a nomination hearing for Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Stephanie Thacker. Thacker will appear before the committee on Tuesday, October 4 at 3 p.m.

The Senate scheduled Thacker’s hearing relatively quickly. Unlike some of her peers who have toiled in appellate nominee purgatory for over a year, President Obama nominated Thacker for the bench only three weeks ago.

Coin Collectors Seek Change in State Department Policy in 4th Cir.

Coin collectors, like bikers and mimes, are a wild bunch, constantly testing the limits of what decent society will tolerate, so it should come as no surprise that the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) had a brush with the law.

What may shock your conscience is that the ACCG has the gall to appeal its wrongdoings to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. The nefarious activity prompting such gumption?

Ancient coin importation.

While we understand that such indiscretions were not meant to be discussed in polite company, this is a law blog, and we have to tackle the tough legal topics of our time.

Torture Claims Dismissed Under Military Contractor Immunity

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two torture cases this week against military contractors, finding that the plaintiffs' state law claims were preempted by federal law.

Since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military has seized and detained Iraqi citizens who it suspected of being enemy combatants or having useful intelligence. Some of these detainees, like the plaintiffs in the Fourth Circuit cases, were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib prison. Although the prison was operated in the war zone by the U.S. Army, the U.S. government, in response to a severe shortage of military intelligence personnel, contracted with private corporations to provide civilian interrogators and interpreters.

CACI International and L-3 Services, the defendants in these cases, were among the contractors.

Alcolac Not Liable Under Torture Law for TDG Sales to Hussein

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a chemical company accused of selling chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime in the '80s cannot be held liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

In the 1980s, the Republic of Iraq, then under Hussein's dictatorial control, was embroiled in a long-term armed conflict with Iran. International news media widely reported - and the United States government explicitly condemned - the Iraqi regime's large-scale use of mustard gas and other chemical weapons against Iran.

Judicial Conference Approves Court Filing Fees Increase

The Judicial Conference of the United States recently adopted a new court fee schedule in response to inflationary expenses. It is the first increase in court filing fees in eight years. Fee increases will become effective November 1, 2011.

The income the Judiciary receives through miscellaneous fees allows it to reduce its annual appropriations request to Congress. Fees in appeals, district, and bankruptcy courts are affected, and expected to result in an estimated $10.5 million in additional fee revenue for fiscal year 2012. The new Miscellaneous Fee Schedule is available here.

Overturned: Gunslinger Dodges a Felony Possession Bullet

If you represent a North Carolina client with a felony possession conviction, you may have new grounds for appeal.

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded a man's conviction for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon based on an August 2011 Fourth Circuit opinion in U.S. v. Simmons.

The appellant, Jason Michael Parrish, challenged the conviction by asserting that his priors were not felonies because they were not punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.

Fourth Circuit: Individual Mandate Plaintiffs Lack Standing

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lacks standing to bring a lawsuit challenging the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

In its Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius opinion, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, “A state possesses no legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from the government of the United States.”

Not to be outdone by the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, which have also ruled on Affordable Care Act cases, the Fourth Circuit issued a second Affordable Care Act opinion in Liberty University v. Timothy Geithner, in which it found that Liberty University’s challenge to the individual mandate penalties could not be reviewed under the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA).

Fourth Circuit: Supreme Court Precedent Trumps ALJ Opinion

A Supreme Court ruling outweighs an unpublished opinion from an administrative law judge (ALJ).

Yes, that seems obvious, but we raise the point only because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion this week in which it reversed a U.S. Department of Labor Benefits Review Board (BRB) decision that relied on an ALJ decision instead of binding Supreme Court precedent.

Robert Green appeared before an ALJ in 2008 to request disability benefits for hearing loss incurred through loud noise exposure at Ceres Marine Terminals (Ceres). Green was a dockworker, and stated that when the port crane unloaded containers from a cargo ship, it frequently slammed the containers onto the waiting truck chassis below, sometimes as often as 300-400 times in an eight-hour shift. Green claimed that he never wore hearing protection on the dock, but he would put cotton in his ears if the noise was particularly loud.

W. Va. Retirees Lose Healthcare Preliminary Injunction Appeal

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a group of West Virginia Retirees’ (Retirees) request seeking the continuation of certain health benefits last week.

Since that’s the harshest sentence we’ve written all week, let’s review whether the court’s decision is heartless or justified.

Century Aluminum of West Virginia ran into financial trouble in 2007; it attributed the strain, in part, to rising healthcare costs. In 2009, Century curtailed operations at its Ravenwood, W. Va. plant, and announced a plan to modify or terminate retiree healthcare benefits for retirees who were 65 or older, or who retired between February 6, 1985 and June 1, 2006.

Nominal Damages Plus Fees: MD to Pay in Voter Registration Case

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) must pay a voting rights group’s attorney’s fees.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Project Vote filed suit against MTA in 2007 challenging the restrictions on ACORN’s right to register voters at MTA transportation centers, including subway and bus stops.

At the time, MTA required any individual who wished to register voters or conduct free speech activities on MTA property - regardless of proximity to the entrance or turnstiles - to obtain a permit for each day and disclose the location of the activity. The permits would only last three days.